I have this conversation all the time.
What do I carry in the outdoors to sleep?
Well, to be honest. Almost the same as I carry in the Summer. With a few exceptions.
I like to start from the beginning.
First, If possible, I start by choosing where I set up my bed area.
I stay away from the fire, unless I have no choice. What I mean, is, If I don’t have warm sleeping gear with me, then I sleep near a fire.
I also sleep away from water, as damp and cold rises at night, and out of the wind. If I can, I will sleep near trees that can cover me from the wind.
Then I choose the best place to find comfort. I look for ground with lots of leaves for example. This way I have a better comfortable spot. But also more insulation from the wet ground. And yes, the ground is always wet or damp. There’s always moisture.
I then remove all sticks and rocks, and try to make sure that the ground is level, and without things to damage my ground mate, and sleeping mattress. Or the footprint of my tent.
I then put down my TYVEX ground sheet. This is a great product that for some reason is very hard to find in Switzerland. I managed some years ago to find it by the yard / meter on Amazon. I am still looking for rolls of it to sell on my site.
Then I put down my foam mattress.
Then my air mattress.
That’s right I’m an old man now, and need my comfort. But it’s not heavy. The price and weight I paid for it tells me so.
Then I pull out my US Army ECWC (Extreme Cold Weather Sleeping Bag)
It’s a four piece system that rates down to -50. At least it say so. It’s a Green Summer Bag, Black Winter Bag, Gortex Bivi Bag and a stuff Bag.
I dumped the stuff bag many yeas ago. I use a large water proof stuff bag now that does the trick.
I also usually don’t bring the Bivi Bag with me, as I really find I don’t need it.
One of the main reasons I love this system, isn’t the weight, but the size. It’s built to be slept in wearing all of one's military kit. So it’s extra-large in size. Which works great for me. As I have a large chest, arms and shoulders.
I have never slept cold in this system, and recommend it over some great brands out there.
This system is synthetic. Not down. Of course this makes it heavier, but that’s fine, and central Europe is too humid for down bags. I don’t recommend using down bags unless you are up north where it’s dry.
Something you can do with any bag, as long as it’s not too tight to get inside. Is to double up on sleeping bags. Carinthia developed 20 years ago a sleeping system for the Indian Army. (ECC) Extrem Cold System)
The system was a Down Winter Bag along with a Synthetic Winter Bag. The down would be put inside of the synthetic bag, this was so the G-Loft material would absorb the humidity from the down bag that was against the body. This system worked great. Two winter bags together, although they were big in volume, the down bag cut down on some of the weight. But these bags were used in the Himalayas. Not the Alps nor the forests of Europe.
The system was also over 800.- bucks But it worked. (20 years ago) I want to believe it was the Survival Down 1000 and a Defence 6 bag back then. which are well over 800.-.
There's another company that makes great bags, Wiggy's. check them out.
My ECWC Bag works great and is less expensive. Although it’s out of stock on most sites, you can find the newer version in the digital camo for under $200.- and they are used. Which means, although cleaned, they’ve lost some of their protection.
The next thing I do it make sure I sleep under some kind of cover, tent or tarp. Of course a closed tent with insulate you a good bit. So, there’s a good place to find some extra warmth.
If I find that I’m cold I will put the water proof bag over the feet of my bag, or even better, by rain proof jacket.
I also wear socks, gloves, and a watch cap inside. This helps in insulation.
And make sure you’ve eaten well. This is like adding wood to the fire.
If you are a female and looking for a good bag, remember the comfort levels. Your temperature rating is the lowest level noted on the wrapper.
When it comes to cleaning your bag. I don’t. I will hang it over the tent or tarp in the morning sun. inside out. This helps a lot. Washing, unless it’s filthy, but if you have too. Be careful, because it will lose some of the insulation.
So, there you have it. Nothing too special. Just some basic information, and my experience of sleeping cold. Because I have slept cold, and wet.